Kia's biggest SUV gets a sharp new suit, a roomier and higher-tech cabin, more safety features, new 8-DCT – but familiar engines and no hybrid for Australia
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Full details on the 2020 Kia Sorento - its “most high-tech car ever” – have been revealed ahead of a still-expected Australian launch in the middle of this year.

While we have already seen images of the new Sorento’s exterior and interior, and been privy to engine details, the company laid-out the whole lot today.

It will give the company a more cutting-edge competitor to the Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9, Skoda Kodiaq, and top-selling Toyota Kluger.

Outside

The new exterior design was a collaboration between KMC’s studios in Namyang (Korea), Frankfurt (Germany), and Irvine (US).

Sharper lines and ‘stronger’ body sculpting contrast with its predecessor, the A-pillars are pulled back from the front axle to extend the bonnet, the Seltos-like ‘pinched’ grille is bookended by LED headlights and DRL strips, the tailgate features creased metal, and the tail lights have vertical LEDs.

It also adopts certain other design features from more recent Kia models, including a silver ‘shark fin’ on its C-pillar.

The new model is 10mm longer than its 4.8m predecessor, but it features shorter front and rear overhangs. The additional length is found in the wheelbase (a result of the Sorento’s brand new platform that’ll also underpin the next Carnival), which has grown by 35mm.

The new Sorento will be available in Australia with a choice of seven exterior paint finishes, and 17-, 18-, 19- and 20-inch aluminium-alloy wheels depending on trim grade.

Inside

“The interior of the fourth-generation Sorento represents a step-change in quality and design for the Kia cabin,” the company reckons.

“One of the highest-quality interior spaces found in any Kia to-date, the intuitive, tech-oriented cabin of the new Sorento is fitted with premium-quality materials and cutting-edge infotainment.”

The dominant features are a 12.3-inch digitised instrument display that reminds one of the Mercedes-Benz MBUX design, and a 10.25-inch centre touchscreen for infotainment and navigation.

Haptic-feedback ‘buttons’ flank the screen to control heating and cooling, alongside two rocker switches.

The air vents up front are split into two sections, below which sits a transmission tunnel with storage tubs, a circular gear shifter (enabled by a shift-by-wire transmission), and various dials and buttons to control the driving modes, work the cameras, and change the seat temperatures.

There are also features such as a projecting head-up display, changeable ‘mood lighting’, a wireless charging pad, and a Bose surround-sound system. The infotainment also allows Bluetooth pairing for two phones concurrently, and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also featured.

Materials used include metallic sections on the dash and doors, and “embossed satin-effect surfaces”. In Australia the Sorento will be available (grade-dependent) with black cloth, leather-appointed black cloth, and the black quilted Nappa leather pictured.

In terms of space, “the new Sorento is based on Kia’s new third-generation ‘N3’ midsize SUV platform, providing superior space for people and cargo through more intelligent packaging. The result is one of the most versatile and spacious cars in its class”.

Kia claims middle-seating-row passengers have up to 994mm of headroom and 1034mm of legroom, which for context is the same headroom and 33mm more legroom than a Hyundai Santa Fe. Third-row occupants get 935mm of headroom and 752mm legroom (18mm/6mm more than the Hyundai).

Middle-seat amenities include pull-up sun blinds, vents, cupholders, and a smartphone tray. The second-row seats now slide up to 45mm further, creating a wider point of entry to the third row. There is also a new grab handle inside the C-pillar, and third-row air vents and storage cubbies. Pictures show four ISOFIX child-seat anchor points.

For second-row passengers, two USB charging sockets are integrated into the backs of the two front seats, with a third found at the rear of the front-row centre console. Both third-row passengers also have their own charging points, meaning all seven passengers can keep their device charged.

Kia also claims (VDA) a massive 821 litres of boot space with the third seating row folded flat, and 187L with all seven seats in use. With the back two seat rows folded, you get 2011L. These figures are, respectively, up 216L/45L/349L greater than Kia’s claim for the outgoing Sorento model.

Controls in the sidewall of the boot also let users fold down the second-row seat backs remotely by button.

Drivetrains

The main engine is a revised 2.2-litre turbo-diesel with a much lighter new aluminum block leading the changes. Kia claims 148kW and 440Nm (up 1kW/down 1Nm). It is paired with Kia’s new eight-speed wet double-clutch transmission in place of the old 8AT with torque-converter, and is likely to be sold here in all-wheel drive (AWD) form. No fuel-economy figures are available yet.

Australia will also retain the 206kW/336Nm 3.5-litre petrol V6 used at present, probably on the front-wheel drive versions. In North America and Korea, the company's new 2.5-litre T-GDi turbo-petrol engine will be offered, matched to an eight-speed DCT and making 207kW and 421Nm, but that engine is left-hand-drive only for now.

There’s a new mild-hybrid version that pairs a 132kW/265Nm turbo-petrol engine, a 44kW/264Nm motor and a 1.49kW battery. A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) with far bigger battery is due by the end of 2020. Limited supply of both means they are aimed at regions with emissions caps, like Europe.

Kia Australia couldn’t get its hands on a Sorento hybrid even if it asked. Thus we will have the 2.2 diesel and 3.5 petrol V6.

Dynamically, the new N3-based car is said to deliver “an even more assured, comfortable ride and more satisfying, enjoyable driving character than its predecessor, aided by heavily revised fully-independent suspension”.

The front suspension setup uses MacPherson struts mounted to the subframe, while the aforementioned rear comprises double wishbones. Both ends have gas-filled shocks, coil springs and anti-roll bars tuned specifically for Australia’s roads, in Sydney.

The latest Sorento also offers “enhanced all-terrain capability” thanks to a new Terrain Mode that fiddles with the stability control, distribution of torque to all wheels, and transmission shift points, depending on what the car’s sensors and ECU make of the surface you’re driving over.

Safety

The Sorento’s lighter and stiffer body features a higher proportion of high-strength steel and hot-stamped steel components than its predecessor., plus aluminium. This also helps cut 54kg from the overall weight alongside those lighter engines.

There are seven airbags: dual front, dual front-side seat-mounted, side curtains with rollover sensor, and front-centre designed to prevent heads coming into contact during a collision. We will be interested to see whether the side curtains extend all the way back to the third row.

The new Sorento also has Kia’s first Multi-collision Brake system which automatically applies vehicle brakes when the airbags have been deployed after an initial collision, protecting from secondary frontal or side impacts. This system has been standard on Volkswagens for a while.

Driver-assistance stuff include Kia’s latest forward collision-avoidance system (AEB) with pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle detection, and which also detects oncoming traffic when making a turn at a junction. There’s also available blind-spot monitoring, blind-spot collision-avoid assist, active cruise control, and lane-keeping aids.

A blend of all these systems means the Sorento fits ‘level 2’ autonomy criteria. In full swing the car can use its camera and radar sensors to maintain a safe distance from the car in front, while monitoring road markings to keep in the centre of the lane.

There’s also reverse-parking AEB that detects pedestrians and cyclists, a 360-degree camera, rear cross-traffic alert, and a Safe Exit Assist feature that prevents rear doors from opening if the vehicle detects a hazard approaching from behind, such as a cyclist or another vehicle.

A new Remote Smart Parking Assist system lets you move the car autonomously out of a front-and-back parking space remotely with the key fob, if you can’t squeeze through the door.

Australia

Australian sales of diesel models will commence in June while the petrol models will be available in the fourth quarter of this year. Of course, right at the moment, everything is up in the air…

The new Sorento will sit atop Kia’s growing SUV range which also comprises the new Seltos and familiar Sportage. Later this year the Stonic will arrive, as a new SUV entry point. The larger Telluride remains a left-hand-drive only proposition.

Kia was one of very few brands to grow its sales in 2019, and by far the highest-volume player to do so. It’s the fifth-most popular brand in 2020 to date, having overtaken Ford. With 6.5 per cent market share, it’s now just 1 per cent behind the share of its big brother Hyundai.